Speaking the day after the death of U.S. ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens at the hands of a mob angered by a slur against Mohammed, Brian McLaren warned us that all religious and political belief systems build their identity by demonizing others--and all religions have a potential to make a contribution to peace. (Integral theory would explain this as levels of development within religions.) McLaren was speaking about his new book, "Why did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?" at an event sponsored by the Emerging Christianity Meetup in DC.
To see the whole story in Christianity, he advised that we never tell just one Bible story in isolation. Most Bible stories exist in counterpoint to other stories that make an opposing point. McLaren told us he had learned this lesson from Tom Boomershine, founder of the Network of Biblical Storytellers. As an example, he says that when you tell the story of David vanquishing Goliath with a pebble, you should also tell that David was later denied an opportunity to build the temple because of his violent past. The Bible must be studied for its entire story arc he said--echoing a point Bishop Thomas made often to me in the adventure described in our book. McLaren also shared documentation from his book about how the slavery brought by Columbus decimated native peoples of the Caribbean in the name of Christianity.
In questions at the end, my friend Stephanie Fast noted that the Bahai religion developed through periods of violent persecution in the Middle East and thus became a religion devoted to peace, citing their scripture "Better not to be religious than to kill in the name of religion."
McLaren noted the extraordinary devotion to peace of the Bahais, but cautioned against setting up any religion as the peaceful one--especially when it is new. The crowd laughed knowingly as he added, "My Mennonite friend tells me there is no conflict among Mennonites--but a lot of passive aggression."
A followup discussion about McLaren's book will be held by the Emerging Christianity Meetup later in the month.